Saturday, July 2, 2016

More Dinosaurs Than Buffalo

I'm afraid Casper, WY, was just a quickie this time through. No disrespect to this nice town with lots of museums and scenic drives and a cute downtown, but my routing only gave us two nights here.

We stay just south of town in Evansville at River's Edge RV Park. With just one full day I want a place on the water so Bill can spend it fishing if he wants. He does so he did :-)

This is a very clean and open park with decent spacing, level hard sites, 50 amp FHUs, immaculate showers and laundry, playground, clubhouse, and the North Platte River just feet away. Sites 70-73 have the nicest water front views. Each site has a nice picnic table and faux turf with small trees for shade that won't block a satellite dish. We will definitely stay here when we return.

Site 44
From the front of our site, the river is just beyond the teepee
Bill fishes in between rain storms, and I clean house and pick up groceries. Our one day flies by.

Breaking one of my routing "rules", we travel on the Friday of a holiday weekend. But we get out before 9 AM and have zero traffic the whole trip. Good thing as Hwy 20 is a two-lane road with no pull-outs and only two passing lane sections in 90+ miles. It takes us through rolling hills and not much else until the small town of Shoshone, WY. We stay entertained looking for Prong Horn, and finally see several of them. Prior to Casper there were surprisingly few.

We pass Boysen Reservoir which is huge, and the entrance to Wind River Canyon. Even more incredible than the other incredible canyons we've driven this summer! I want to come back up in the Jeep before we leave the area.

Eagle RV Park, Thermopolis, WY, is on the west side of Hwy 20, the Bighorn River is on the east side. It is a small park with less than 40 RV sites, four small cabins, and a couple tent sites. There are large cottonwood trees, and it is the shadiest park we've stayed at this year. With temps expected in the low 90's we're happy to use their cable and enjoy the shade.

The sites are very tight, where the large tree, our picnic table, small fire ring, and our neighbor's sewer hookup are all crammed in a very small area between us and the trailer next door. The whole park could use a good weed eater, and there are plastic cups in our fire ring, but otherwise it's pretty nice.

Sewer hookup under our picnic table bench (and neighbor's stuff on the table because it's so convenient being that close)
Bill told me this afternoon that there's a family reunion here for the weekend. Another one? I swear I don't plan our routes on some reunion web site! 

We celebrate July 1st as our "last first kiss", and today is our eighth anniversary. The local brewery, One Eyed Buffalo, looks like the perfect spot for the occasion. With 18 brews on tap there is a very good selection. I start with a Boom! Choc-o-late Ale and follow up with a Peach Wheat. Bill sticks with All In Amber. They are very good.

Very tasty local brews
A couple musicians from Portland, OR, are also very good, and we enjoy our first live music in way too long.

Saturday morning Bill is out fishing the river while I make a pasta salad, do a load of laundry, and take Tessa for a walk. When he returns it is already getting hot outside. 

Let's go see some dinosaurs! 

For the next couple hours we enjoy an amazing collection of fossils and skeletons at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. Most of the bones are from the local Thermopolis Dig Site which is still very active. For $150 you can spend an entire day "working" the dig site - it looks like a great experience, but not in this heat.

Using a 12-month calendar for scale - the Big Bang was on January 1 and dinosaurs reached extinction on December 31
There are large 
individual fossils
as well as detailed groupings of smaller ones (most of these are ancient sea lillies)
Some finds remain as a conglomeration of bones
while others have it all together.
A few seem less science
and more art
The variety of specimens is huge, many of them from Madagascar, China, Germany and several North America locations. The amount of information provided is staggering. 

The large dinosaur room holds at least 35 replicated and real skeletons. Most of them I've never heard of, and they range from tiny bird-like specimens to the 106-foot-long "Jimbo". 

The most famous is the Archaeopteryx which they call the Thermopolis Specimen although it was discovered in Germany. The contradiction is not clarified in any of the information provided. It is special because it is believed to be the transition from reptile to bird.

Archaeopteryx, known as the Thermopolis Specimen 
Animated hologram changes the bones into a dino-bird. Very cool :-)
Impossible to get Jimbo in one photo
His neck and tail are over half his overall length
This (real skull) relative of the triceratops is a favorite
as are these two much smaller Othnielia Rex
In addition to the active dig site, they have a state-of-the-art preservation lab
This is a must-see if you have any interest in fossils and dinosaurs - you don't have to be full-blown geeks like us :-)

Of course it's even hotter now so we decide to drive through Hot Springs State Park. So far the Jeep is cooperating with the AC on. 

There is no fee to enter the park, there are two commercial hotels, two large hot pools, a large picnic area, and several trails both along the river and in the surrounding prairie. The parking lots are full, as are the pools, but the bison viewing area drive is nearly empty. We see three of the 24-27 member herd in the distance although we never get close enough to get a photo. It's okay because the colors here are beautiful. 

Hot Springs with Thermopolis in the background
A varied palette 
White Sulfur Springs
Unusual antique car dump site in the state park
Wyoming beauty
Evidence of the herd
Ledges break off as the dirt erodes making interesting patterns
Tree? Sign? Buffalo?
Tree this time :-)
We are not public pool folks so after exploring all the accessible roads in the little park we return home.

The perfect movie to end our dino-day

There's still more to see in this interesting place, and I'm so glad we have a couple more days to enjoy it.  


  1. That car dump is an artifact site for a future year?

    1. Yes :-) Like the pictographs on the sides of railcars!

  2. It has been so hot here in Wyoming. So many temperature records have been broken the year we decided to visit! The average temp in Buffalo this time of year is 79. We only see that in the middle of the night!

    The Dinosaur Center is very impressive. Quite the place the dino lovers:) Looked like the perfect place for a hot day.

    1. Colorado too - no fair! Not looking much better in Montana I'm afraid. We're going to be in Wisconsin by mid August so we'll see what they have for us :-)

  3. Wow seriously good karma to travel on Friday with no traffic. Dinosaurs sounds right on a hot day. Dinosaurs are cool. But what are you doing in these hots areas? Why aren’t you using your wheels to go UP to cooler temps? Congrats on your anniversary. Did you tell the “last first kiss” story and I missed it? The story of high school sweethearts marry after years is a great one. Like a fairytale. Unfortunately some of us didn’t have high school sweethearts who turned out to be people we would actually want to marry.  Love that white sulfur springs picture but a dump in a state park? What’s up with that?

    1. Even though we had been a part for decades, when we got back together we knew it was forever. Having been so long, that kiss was just like a first kiss (they are very special), and we knew it was the last one of those for each of us. Normally we wouldn't be moving at the pace we are, but we are actually moving north hoping to find cooler air temps and cooler fishing water temps. Hoping Montana continues to cool down over the next week! There was no signage, but the "stuff" in the dump looked to be from the '40s so maybe there is some historic significance, but we thought it was weird too

  4. two were married on my 50th birthday! Very cool!

    We've been in the mid to upper 70's in Michigan, Jodee. Hopefully the Midwest temps hold for you guys!

    1. Well we actually got married on Dec 29 :-), but we "got back together after 35 years and knew it was forever" on July 1, 2008. Fingers and toes crossed on cool weather!

  5. Happy Anniversary!! I love the story of you two getting back together and knowing it was forever. :-)) And wow, that prehistoric crab is crazy huge! Very interesting dinosaur exhibit. Can't believe the heat wave that's plaguing so much of the West. Stay cool!

    1. I wish I could have gotten a good shot of it from the top - that crab was one of the most amazing fossils I've seen! The dates on the exhibits make it clear we humans are such babies on earth. Cool is the goal :-)))))

  6. Happy belated Anniversary!!! I like the sound of a chocolate ale. And that fossil museum look very interesting. I keep putting your places on a list and if I don't retire soon will never get to half of these places.

    1. Thanks! It does seem like we're seeing a bunch of really amazing places in a pretty small area :-)